Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dream Factory: The Polar Bear King

The Polar Bear King
Director: Ola Solum
Original release date: Capella International/Nordisk Film & TV Fond 1991 (Norway/Germany)
US release date: Hemdale Films 1994
US DVD release date: Mill Creek 2011
Streaming: Hulu
Rating: Not rated
Grade: C+

From IMDB: "After his father is killed, King Valemon ascends the throne, only to be turned into a polar bear by a bitter witch who wants to be his queen. Valemon must find a bride in the seven year span that he'll be a polar bear, and so he travels to Winterland and finds a wife to take home. Although they are happy, she is not allowed to look upon his face when he turns back into a man at night. When she breaks this rule, Valemon will be trapped to the witch forever."

The Polar Bear King is a very straightforward, faithful adaptation of the fairy tale "Valemon the Bear King," which has striking similarities to "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."  As a family film, I did not expect the text to be subverted in any way, but I was a little disappointed that there was no new spin on the story.  The characters were all extremely archetypal, as in the original tale, and I feel I would have better enjoyed the film had the characters been fleshed out and developed into individuals particular to the film, rather than stock characters who could be inserted into nearly any fairy tale.  But for those simply looking for a film version of "Valemon," it's well-made and enjoyable.

The version streaming on Hulu is the English dubbed version, so I cannot speak of the original Norwegian audio, but I found the dub rather distracting.  It's far from being a terrible 1960's dub such as was given to Speed Racer or Godzilla, but it is obvious (to adults, at least) that it's a dub.  The voices don't quite fit the characters, and the acting is often rather wooden and detached.

As for more technical aspects, the special effects are beginning to show their age.  I read somewhere that Jim Henson's Creature Shop was involved with the animatronics.  For comparison, the effects used in The Storyteller seem to have aged better, but it's been a few years since I watched that series. The costumes and sets are both decently constructed, though not nearly as elaborate as what one would expect from a Hollywood film.  It all reminded me very much of the production values of the BBC adaptation of the Narnia books.

The Polar Bear King is well-suited to families looking for all-ages fantasy fare, but not for those looking for an innovative spin on an old classic.

No comments:

Post a Comment